Strengths: Most of the sunscreens provide sufficient UVA protection and present a variety of options, whether you're looking for titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or avobenzone; a handful of good (but not great) moisturizers; worthwhile oil-blotting papers; foundations with sunscreen that provide sufficient UVA protection (and there are some wonderful foundations here); pressed powder with sunscreen for oily skin; the Perfect Rouge Lipstick is one of the best creamy lipsticks at the department store; mostly good mascaras.
Weaknesses: Expensive; several drying cleansers; boring toners; a few sunscreens offer insufficient UVA protection; no AHA or BHA products; no products to effectively manage acne; no reliable skin-lightening options despite a preponderance of products claiming to do just that; irritating self-tanners; gimmicky masks; jar packaging; uneven assortment of concealers (and some terrible colors); average to disappointing eye and brow shapers; average makeup brushes.
Shiseido is one of the largest cosmetic companies in Japan, and the founder wants consumers worldwide to know that the brand he began is meant for all who seek beauty. Oddly enough, Shiseido (pronounced "she-say-doe"), whose products have a distinctly Japanese appearance and appeal, began in 1872 as Japan's first Western-style pharmacy. Its products have been sold in the United States for over 40 years, and it has become a nearly overwhelming product line. Although there are some respectable products, Shiseido's skin-care collection is far from a total approach to anything, unless your skin-care mantra is "it has to be average yet needlessly expensive and the routine has to include more products than any other line recommends."
A total approach to health and beauty would take into account all that has been learned to date about how skin functions, how it can repair itself, how it ages, and what it realistically takes for it to look, feel, and function at its best. Such an approach does not, however, involve cleansers with alkaline ingredients that cause skin to be unnecessarily dry, lackluster toners, or far too many products with alcohol; that can only harm the skin, which isn't beautiful in the least.
Shiseido doesn't have the issue of sun protection down yet, as witness a few of their sunscreens that still lack sufficient UVA protection - even though they participate in Japan's UVA-based PA rating system (explained in the Sun Products reviews below). And when it comes to state-of-the art essentials such as antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, and substances that reinforce the structure of healthy skin, Shiseido typically comes up short. You'll hear (and read) much talk about the company's exclusive technologies, but terms like Bio-Regenerine, Phyto-Capsule Emulsification, Optimal Balance Network, and Deacti-Complex are meaningless without significant, proven ingredients to support each technology's alleged function. We're sure they are intended to make the products seem more advanced and special to consumers, but the proof is in the ingredient lists, and very few of Shiseido's lists fall under the category of impressive.
If anything, the numerous skin-care options presented here are merely average or really disappointing. Many of the moisturizers have luscious textures, but again, it takes more than a sensational feel to create exceptional products that have your skin's best interest (and best appearance) in mind.
One point of difference with this line is that Shiseido insists on regular facial massage. That means you'll find several facial massage creams, although most of them have traditional moisturizer formularies that differ little from what's seen throughout the lineup. Shiseido maintains that routine facial massage creates firmer skin that's less prone to sagging because the massage action tones the muscles, but that simply isn't true. The muscles of the face are among the most frequently used. Repetitive muscle movements are a prime cause of expression lines around the eyes, mouth, and on the forehead. Botox has become such a popular procedure because it selectively prevents these muscles from working, which smoothes creases and lines. Massage alone cannot do that; if anything, routine facial massage can encourage lines and sagging by stretching the skin. Furthermore, when skin slackens and sags, it involves more than just the muscles. Sun damage plays a role in collagen and elastin destruction, as does gravity, which causes fat pads beneath the skin to slip. And then there's bone loss, and the fact that, as we age, skin continues to grow (yet has less to hold on to). Massage to repair sun damage—give me a break!
For more information about Shiseido, visit www.shiseido.com.
Although Shiseido is known more for their seemingly endless array of skin-care products, their makeup, while not without its problem-child products, is clearly not just an afterthought. The main and most impressive part of the color collection is the foundations. For the most part they have silky textures, and provide adequate sun protection (at least an SPF 15 with UVA-protecting ingredients). If you're keen on shopping this line you should also pay attention to their Perfect Rouge Lipstick, lip gloss, the mascaras, and some distinctive specialty products. Items to avoid entirely include the eye and brow pencils and a couple of the eyeshadows; the makeup brushes are serviceable, but pale in comparison to what makeup artist–backed lines offer. Ignore the inflated claims that accompany many of Shiseido's makeup products, but don't ignore the best of what they have to offer—because in that regard, they're better than ever!